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Daily Press Briefing - November 20

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 20

Robert Wood

Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

November 20, 2009


P-5+1 Political Director's Meeting in Brussels / Taking Stock of October 1 Meeting in Geneva / Iran's Response to IAEA Proposed Agreement / Urging Iran to Reconsider / New Meeting to Take Place / Dual-Track Approach / Visiting Qom / Issue of Sanctions / Limited Patience / P-5+1 Together in Approach / Pressure and Sanctions / Tensions in the Region
Iran's Human Rights Violations / UN Resolution / Deep Concern about the Election / Due Process of Law / UN Special Rapporteur
President Ahmadinejad's Visit to Brazil / Issue between the Two Countries / Raising Issues of Concern

Micheletti's Leave of Absence / Allow Breathing Room for Process to Move Forward / Implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords / Reconciliation

Important Global Players / U.S. Relationship with China and India / Intensive Dialogues / Indo-Sino Relationship

UN Security Council Seat / Security Council Expansion
Civil-Nuclear Cooperation / Nonproliferation

Afghan and NATO Raids / Protecting Civilian Populations / Defeat of Taliban and al-Qaida / Difficult Challenge for Afghanistan Government / Bring Stability and Peace to Afghanistan

Policies on Piracy in Somalia / Appropriate Framework / Spain is an Important Partner / Redoubling Efforts

Abduction of Japanese Engineer / Condemn Hostage Taking


1:10 p.m. EST

MR. WOOD: Good afternoon, and happy Friday to all. Lach, it’s good to see you.

QUESTION: Yeah, good to see you at the podium.

MR. WOOD: Oh, well, I don’t know about that. I’ve got a couple of items I want to start off with and then I’ll take your questions. The first is to give you an update on the P-5+1 meeting that took place in Brussels this morning. The ministers of the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.S., and the EU high representative met, as I think many of you know, in New York on September 23. They agreed that, quote, “The meeting on October 1 will provide an opportunity to seek a comprehensive, long-term, and appropriate solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation. We expect a serious response from Iran and we’ll decide, in the context of our dual-track approach as a result of the meeting, on our next steps,” unquote.

Today, the political directors of these countries met in Brussels to take stock of developments since the October 1 meeting in Geneva. We are disappointed by the lack of follow-up to the three understandings reached in Geneva at the Geneva meeting between High Representative Solana and Dr. Jalili. Although the IAEA has visited the Qom’s enrichment facility, we noted the IAEA director general’s assessment that Iran should have declared to the agency the construction of this facility much earlier and has, therefore, not complied with its safeguard obligations. In addition, the construction of a new enrichment facility is in defiance of several UN Security Council resolutions. The IAEA board will have to address this issue next week.

Iran has not engaged in an intensified dialogue and, in particular, has refused to have a new meeting before the end of October to discuss nuclear issues. Iran has not responded positively to the IAEA proposed agreement for the provision of nuclear fuel for its Tehran research reactor.

We urge Iran to reconsider the opportunity offered by this agreement, to meet the humanitarian needs of its people, and to engage seriously with us in a dialogue and negotiations. This remains our consistent objective. We have agreed that a new meeting will take place shortly in order to complete our assessment of the situation and to decide about next steps in the context of our dual-track approach.

Last item – bear with me a bit. This has to do with a vote that was taken earlier today with regard to Iran’s human rights violations. This was in the UN.

The United States welcomes the resolution passed today by the United Nations calling upon the Government of Iran to respect its human rights obligations fully. In addition, to longstanding concerns about the human rights situation in Iran, the resolution expresses deep concern about the brutal response of Iranian authorities to peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the June 12 election. It calls on the Government of Iran to abolish torture and arbitrary imprisonment, as well as any executions, including stoning, carried out without due process of law. The resolution also calls on Iran to cooperate fully with and admit entry to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture or other cruel, inhumane – excuse me – inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance.

We’ll issue the full statement after the briefing. I just want to point out this is the largest vote margin on such a resolution on Iran in the UN ever. Over 60 percent of those members voted in support.

And with that, I will take – happily take your questions.

QUESTION: Robert, on the P-5+1 statement. It said that they took stock of recent events and that the next meeting would be about next steps. Was there no discussion of the way ahead at this meeting today?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think at this meeting today what the political directors wanted to do was to take a look at Iran’s responses, or lack thereof, to a number of calls by the international community. And I think what was certainly agreed on was that we needed to have a follow-up meeting and to talk about next steps – all part of the dual-track approach that, as you know, we have taken from the beginning. So this next meeting that will take place, will obviously take a closer look at what measures we may need to take with regard to Iran.

But again, we continue to call on Iran to accept this proposal with regard to the Tehran research reactor. We think it’s a good one. We think it’s a great way for Iran to show, if indeed its intentions are peaceful, that they want to cooperate with the international community with regard to its nuclear program. So we’ll just have to see.

But no, the date – there’s been no date scheduled for the next meeting. But --

QUESTION: And the fact that you would wait to another meeting to discuss next steps would indicate you still think that the Iranians may change their mind and --

MR. WOOD: Well, we’re certainly hopeful that they will change their mind. We think – as I said, this is something that the Iranians agreed to in principle. If you remember back at the Geneva meeting, they agreed in principle to this proposal that was brought about under the auspices of the IAEA. And since then, Iran has had a difficult time saying yes to this proposal. So we’re hopeful that Iran will, but should it not, we will obviously take a look at the pressure side of our dual-track approach.

Let me go to Jill --

QUESTION: Robert, I just wanted to clarify then --

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: So on the two issues, you’ve got visiting Qom and you said they should have disclosed earlier.

MR. WOOD: That’s right.

QUESTION: And so the problem here is their decision not to ship out that nuclear fuel. Is that correct?

MR. WOOD: The problem here is that Iran has not responded positively to the proposal. I don’t want to get into the details of the proposal. I think most of you know what was included in the proposal. And what we’re saying to Iran is that it needs to take this offer. It committed to doing so – taking up the proposal – and we think it’s a great confidence-building measure for the international community. I don’t know why Iran hasn’t been able to say yes, up until now. It could have to do with internal political – the internal political situation of Iran, but it’s really hard to say. But we think this is a real good way forward, and Iran needs to take it up.

QUESTION: But it sounds like this is a very serious moment then, because you were saying one more meeting, that’s it.

MR. WOOD: No, I didn’t say that at all. I didn’t mean to say that that was it. I said at the next meeting we would take a look at – based on Iran’s response, up until that – at that time, or lack thereof, and take a look and see what new measures we may have to take. But I’m not saying that the next meeting is it – that’s it and then we start moving to the pressure track.

QUESTION: Then why stretch it out? I mean, isn’t it quite clear that they’re not going to do this?

MR. WOOD: Look, we are – we have said from the beginning, we’re willing to go the extra mile with regard to diplomacy. The President and the Secretary have been very clear about that. Iran has had plenty of time to consider this proposal. We still hope that they will reconsider and give the IAEA Director General a yes. But that’s up to Iran. But again, as I said earlier, Jill, we’ve – our approach has been one of two tracks. And at the next meeting we will take a look again at where things are, and then discuss the way forward.

QUESTION: Will the next meeting be weeks or months?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know yet. I don’t suspect it’ll be months, but I don’t know at this point.

QUESTION: And will it be at the political directors level or –

MR. WOOD: Don’t know. At this point, I would assume it would be, but that – there could be a decision taken later that it would be at another level. But at this point, I would assume it’s political directors.

QUESTION: On the second track, which presumably might involve sanctions, is there confidence now that the P-5+1 are agreed that that is one route that we might have to take that sanctions should be discussed as a potential next step?

MR. WOOD: Well, the issue of sanctions has been discussed before. This is certainly not new. We’ve said that we want to leave a – there’s a window of opportunity for Iran. That window is not going to be open forever. And if it doesn’t respond to the calls of the international community for it to live up to its international obligations, then we will have to look at the pressure track. But I don’t want to get a head of where we might go on that. But it’s very clear, the international community has said to Iran that if you’re willing to take important confidence-building measures, such as the Tehran research reactor proposal, that it is possible that we can move toward a better relationship, but Iran has yet to make that decision.

Yes, Lach.

QUESTION: Can you conclude that the Iranians are stringing you along and just buying time in this?

MR. WOOD: I can’t tell you what they are trying to do. But as I said, I think the international community’s patience is limited. And we’re saying to Iran, we’re reaching out our hand, we want to work with you on addressing the concerns that the international community has about your nuclear activities. We – again, this Tehran research reactor proposal is a good one. It can go a long way in addressing a number of the concerns that the international community has – not all of them – but it certainly would be an important confidence-building measure. So it’s really going to be up to Tehran.

QUESTION: Robert, just another clarification. Legally, officially, has Iran actually said we are not going to do this? There’s been so much back and forth – maybe we will, maybe we won’t – I don’t – what is the official version from the government, if there is one?

MR. WOOD: Well, as far as I know, Iran hasn’t responded formally to this proposal, but we’ve heard a lot of soundings from Iran. Ian addressed those yesterday. And we just hope that Iran will give a yes – a positive answer to this proposal. But that’s the best I can help you on that.

QUESTION: Is China and Russia on the same page? And are they ready to discuss measures, new measures against Iran or new sanctions?

MR. WOOD: Well, I certainly don’t want to speak for either government, but I can tell you that the P-5+1 has been of one mind on the need to approach Iran’s nuclear program through a two-track approach. And both countries, like the other members of the P-5+1, agree that we have concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran needs to address them. We all believe that Iran having a nuclear weapons capability is not a good thing. And so, in that particular – in that way, yes, the EU-5 – excuse me – the P-5+1 is in agreement that Iran needs to live up to its obligations.

QUESTION: But (inaudible) China or France or Russia? Even they have their economic and their political issues or their concern or they are with Iran on those issues?

MR. WOOD: I'm sorry, Goyal.

QUESTION: As far as economic and political concerns are there between those countries, especially economic, Russia, China and France.

MR. WOOD: Well, I can’t speak for what their concerns are, except to say that they have been – they’ve made it very clear that Iran’s nuclear program is of concern, and that Iran needs to address those concerns, and that having a – Iran having a nuclear weapon is just not in the best interest of the international community.

QUESTION: Another clarification.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: How far along are you – is the United States with its allies in determining specifically what kind of sanctions you would use if this comes to what it looks like it’s moving toward?

MR. WOOD: Well, Jill, as you can imagine, I’m not going to get into details of what types of measures we might take with regard to the pressure track. Again, what I would say from here is that Iran needs to take up this offer; that the IAEA and the United States, Russia, France worked on. Iran needs to take it up. It’s a good deal for Iran’s people. It’s a good deal for addressing confidence of the international community. And I don’t know what more to say about it, except that Iran needs to respond.

QUESTION: Well, then can you at least tell us do you have a packet of sanctions ready to go and defined at this stage? Or is it that the United States has a packet ready to go and must sell it to its allies?

MR. WOOD: Well, Jill, I don’t – as I said, I don’t want to get into a discussion of what measures we may or may not be thinking about. I think, as I said at the beginning, we have been committed to this dual-track approach. We call on Iran to address the issues that are outstanding. Should Iran not do that, then we will have to look at other measures, but I really don’t want to get into what those measures may or may not be.

QUESTION: Does there ever come a point when it becomes too late for Iran to respond? What – I mean, I realize that you don’t want to sort of draw down an official deadline, but there must be some stage of this process where an Iranian response, yes or no, is going to be too late; you’re already going to be on – entrained for doing something else.

MR. WOOD: Well, as I said earlier, this window is not going to be open forever. We’re not at that point yet, but we will certainly let you know when – if and when we reach that point.

QUESTION: But Robert, as far as sanctions are concerned, go back anywhere, really even 10 year, 15, 20 years – has they worked – any one country – any country around the globe, including Burma – any country you take actions – sanctions now? I have not seen actually, but we keep talking about sanctions – new sanctions, more sanctions?

MR. WOOD: Well, as I’ve said many times from here and others have as well, you cannot really compare the two situations anywhere. Sanctions have been used in the past as a tool to try to influence a country’s behavior, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to compare them. And again, Iran knows what it needs to do and we continue – we and others continue to call on Iran to accept this proposal that they agreed to in principle.


QUESTION: Since we’ve settled that, can we move on to Honduras?

QUESTION: One question more about Iran. Do you --

QUESTION: Well, we had settled – sorry.

QUESTION: Do you expect that this is going to generate more tensions in the Middle East? How the U.S. is going to address the new tensions that this kind of statement is coming to the Middle East, especially for Israel or other countries are also --

MR. WOOD: Well --

QUESTION: -- very worried about this.

MR. WOOD: Well, I think Iran’s noncompliance has raised tensions in the region. There’s no question about it. There are lots of concerns not only in the neighborhood, but throughout the international community about Iran’s activities. Iran needs to comply with its obligations, and that – once Iran does that, if and when Iran does that, it will help reduce tensions. But to date, Iran hasn’t decided to do that.

Charlie, you wanted to go to something else – on this, Dave?

QUESTION: Yeah, just an ancillary question --

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: Ahmadinejad is going to be visiting Brazil in a couple of days. Is the fact that a friendly government like that welcoming Ahmadinejad – does that tend to dilute international solidarity on the nuclear issue?

MR. WOOD: Well, President Ahmadinejad going to Brazil, that’s an issue between the Government of Brazil and the Government of Iran. What we would hope is that the Government of Brazil would raise some of these concerns that we have, many of which I’ve just laid out here, about Iran in those meetings. But beyond that, I don’t have anything to add to that.


QUESTION: Yes, on Honduras, you want to bring us up to date on the latest developments and whether or not you think Mr. Zelaya might return to the – any kind of power before the election?

MR. WOOD: Well, as I think many of you are aware, there was a statement made last night by Mr. Micheletti about taking a leave of absence. And we welcome that he is going to take a leave of absence and expect its prompt implementation. This will allow some breathing space for the process in Honduras to go forward. And so the announcement will also allow for the people of Honduras to focus on the elections. And so that’s really where we are.

QUESTION: When you say you welcome, what do you mean by you welcome? Means that you are happy or – that he’s taking a leave of absence?

MR. WOOD: I mean we welcome.


QUESTION: (Inaudible), right?

MR. WOOD: Anything else on Honduras?


MR. WOOD: Dave --

QUESTION: I mean, as far as you’re concerned, this is – is this a good solution now? I mean, no longer does the United States expect Zelaya to come back or --

MR. WOOD: Well, I think what would be a good solution for the situation, the crisis in Honduras, is for the implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords. That, I think, is what needs to happen now. And the sooner that we can get that implementation, the sooner we will get to what we hope will be a resolution to this crisis.

Jill, you had --

QUESTION: And who runs the country while Mr. Micheletti is on vacation?

MR. WOOD: That’s a good question. I don’t really know the answer to that. I’m sure there is one and I’ll try and get one.

QUESTION: Zelaya said that he wants to delay the elections. He says that in this situation, the elections cannot be take – cannot be done.

MR. WOOD: Well, there is an accord that President Zelaya and his team and Mr. Micheletti and his team agreed to. And we think if we are going to address the issues of restoring democracy, if we’re going to deal with the the question of reconciliation, that the best way to do this is to move forward with the implementation of the accord. It’s in the best interests of the Honduran people. The Honduran people want to end this crisis. And as we’ve said, one of the most important things that needs to happen first is the formation of this national unity government. And we want to see that happen as soon as possible.

On Honduras?


MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: A different issue.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: Two quick questions on India into one, actually. As far as the joint statement was concerned in China, between U.S. and China, and there is still theories going on around India because of what the joint statement was saying, that China should play a major role in South Asia. What they are saying is that China has no rule of law, no human rights, no democracy, and India is world’s largest democracy, two major powers in the region are rising. And how can China play such a role with millions of people are under communist rule and they have no respect for any human being over there or supporting even around the globe, many terrorist activities?

Now, second, this is now on the eve of prime minister of India’s visit to Washington on Tuesday – and second, Carnegie International is calling on the United States that China has called for the U.S. to support a major, I mean, permanent UN Security Council seat for India.

MR. WOOD: Well, to go to the first part of your question, I mean, India and China are two rising powers, very important players on the global scene. And China – as we have said, there are issues of concern that we have with the Chinese. We’ve raised them when appropriate, and at all levels of our interaction. Hopefully, China will move in the direction that we’d like to see it go. It’s an important nation, and India and China are – they’re going to be countries that we deal very closely with in the coming years. And I don’t know what more to say about it. I mean, they’re key, and our relationships with both are growing.

Do we have concerns with both? Of course. I’m sure – and both have concerns with us, and that’s why we need to work closely. We have intensive dialogues with both countries. And I think both countries also realize the importance of the Indo-Sino relationship, and to work toward improving that not only for regional stability, but for global stability as well.

And the second part of your question with regard to – please refresh my memory, because I wasn’t --

QUESTION: Carnegie International is calling the U.S. for permanent UN Security seat for India.

MR. WOOD: Yeah. I mean, that’s something that – the whole question of Security Council expansion is one that the UN’s been dealing with for quite some time, and we’ll just have to see how that goes.

QUESTION: You think there will be an announcement during prime minister of India’s visit in the White House about this?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t know about any announcement about that, but I certainly – if I had an announcement before the visit, I wouldn’t want to make it here.

QUESTION: How about a specific bilateral issue with India? The civil-nuclear cooperation deal was hailed as the big, great triumph of U.S.-Indian relations last year, but it still remains unimplemented, and one reason for that is the lack of a reprocessing agreement between the United States and India. I understand there have been talks about that. Is there any – where do we stand with the reprocessing agreement? Who is it who would make that decision ultimately? And is that something that we might expect during the prime minister’s visit?

MR. WOOD: Well, there are a number of players involved in dealing with that question that you just raised And we’ve said from the beginning that agreement is a good agreement and brings India into the nonproliferation mainstream. There are folks working on it. I’ll see if we have anything that we can --


MR. WOOD: -- give you an update on.

QUESTION: Great, thanks.

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: A different topic – on Afghanistan?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to ask about the raid today on the village of Hyderabad by Afghan and NATO forces. There were lots of angry villagers out all over TV screens screaming that the ISAF forces were killing innocent people. And I just wondered, as the Administration’s policy formulates, what is going to be done to placate those villagers and make them realize that these raids are important? Or are they important?

MR. WOOD: Well, let me just say as a general principle one of our concerns – and I think General McChrystal has made this very clear – is that we want to focus more on protecting civilian populations. That’s critical. Winning over the populous in Afghanistan is something – it’s a must. There is – it’s a very dangerous security environment. There’s no question about it. I mean, you’ve heard many people speaking from here, you’ve heard the Secretary, you’ve heard the President speaking about what our objectives are in Afghanistan. And we think it’s important that the Taliban and al-Qaida be defeated. Those two groups, networks, are a major threat to the security, safety, and well-being of the Afghan people.

What we’re – we realize that it’s going to be a difficult challenge for the Afghan Government to deal with the security issues, and we’re going to – we’re a partner, we’re going to work closely with them to try to do that. But we certainly recognize that it’s important to make sure that the civilian population is protected, but at the same time, we’ve got to make sure – and President Karzai has spoken to this very clearly – that we counter this violent extremism as best we can, because that’s a major cancer in Afghan society. And so we will be continuing to pursue our efforts along with our partners in ISAF and with our Afghan partner, but also at the same time, do our best to try to bring some stability and peace to Afghanistan, which it so desperately needs.

QUESTION: These villagers would clearly disagree with that. They would say that there was a raid, nobody told us what was going on --

MR. WOOD: Well --

QUESTION: -- and these were our friends.

MR WOOD: I’d have to refer you to ISAF for that because I’m not aware of that specific incident. But I was just trying to give you a general statement of policy.


MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: There is an internal crisis in this moment in Spain based on a situation that we don’t address much here – is the piracy in Somalia, and the Spanish Government was involved with some of their forces and they – finally, this boat paid $4 million to be rescued to the piracies – to the pirates in Somalia. I want to know if there are specific actions with the U.S., the State Department and other countries to try to improve the situation there in Somalia?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think you know very well we’ve been working in the UN to try to come up with an appropriate framework for dealing with acts of piracy. With regard to the Spanish Government’s policies, I have to refer you to them, but --

QUESTION: No, there’s an internal crisis between their position and the government because of what happened there.

MR. WOOD: Well, again, I don’t want to get involved in internal Spanish politics. I can just tell you that Spain is an important partner, as well as a number of other countries, in terms of trying to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. It’s – this is kind of a new issue that we’ve been dealing with intensively of late, but there’s a lot – there’s good cooperation in the international community in trying to counter piracy. And we’ll continue to work on this issue because it – piracy has to be stamped out.

Somalia, as you know, has been without – the transitional government there has had some real difficulties. And the instability in Somalia, I think, is breeding a lot of the acts of piracy. And so we’re going to redouble our efforts in the international community to try to --

QUESTION: Do you expect there’s going to be a meeting or an encounter in Africa to review this situation?

MR. WOOD: Oh, the --

QUESTION: It’s not going to help maybe these communities or something because they are attacking all these ships in that region.

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t know if there is a plan for an upcoming meeting or anything like that. There could very well be at some point. But there are a lot of consultations and meetings going on to deal with the whole piracy question. So the international community is focused on this right now; we’re just trying to come up with a framework, good measures to take in order to try to eliminate it. But this goes all the way back to the days of Thomas Jefferson and the issue of piracy, so --

QUESTION: One of – the money was used, and one – some part of the money was divided in some groups, and one couple married using this money. That’s what the news are saying. (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: I don’t know anything about that.

QUESTION: Are you working at the United Nations level?

MR. WOOD: On the issue of piracy?

QUESTION: On this, yeah, yes.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, absolutely.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Robert, just on – one thing Andy was mentioning about this civil-nuclear cooperation deal, if I understood you correctly right at the end, you said it brought – it brings them into the nonproliferation mainstream; is that what you said?

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, there are many people who would argue completely from the opposite viewpoint, that it gives them a free pass.

MR. WOOD: Oh, I know. There are a number of –

QUESTION: So I know we’ll get into this next week because he will be here on Tuesday. But just as a general statement in principle, how do you make that argument? I mean, why – what do you say to the people who say that they did get a free pass, that they’re very much not part of the mainstream?

MR. WOOD: Well, for one, India is a responsible player on the global scene, and that’s something that one cannot deny. India feels very strongly about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It’s cooperative with us in a number of fora. I think if you go back and you look at what we said at the time that the agreement was finally signed, that this was a good thing. And it will help us in our efforts to try to stem the scourge of nonproliferation and --

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Why are they an exception to everybody else?

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s – look, I don’t know who everybody else is we’re talking about. I can just –

QUESTION: Any other country that has any nuclear material.

MR. WOOD: Well, I can just – again, Jill, reiterate that we think that this agreement is a good one. We think it will contribute to our nonproliferation efforts around the world. And that’s the best I can do for you at this point.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: A Japanese engineer has been abducted in Yemen by an armed group which has demanded the release of jailed family member who may be part of al-Qaida. I have two questions. Has State Department consulted with the Yemeni Government regarding this issue? And how do you see the risks of releasing this prisoner?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not familiar with this case. We obviously would condemn anyone who has been taken hostage. But I’d just have to refer you to the Japanese and Yemeni Governments on this. I just haven’t heard about this case.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Thank you.


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